We’ve had a whole week here in Wambrechies .. a place we love even more now. It’s close to Lille, a great city (the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country behind those of Paris, Lyon and Marseille), has good access and is a charmingly quiet but happening town. It is always buzzing with people particularly here by the Port de Plaisance (marina) right at the heart of town. Everyone smiles and greets each other .. a bit like the belfry and church bells which are constantly chattering (right beside us).
One always marks each quarter-hour and then the two compete with the task of announcing the hour (one chimes, eg, seven times and one minute later the other does the same). Happily they don’t start until 7.00am (when we also have a huge peal of bells which seems to announce a church service) and they finish at a very sociable hour. We’re not sure which one is running one minute late or is it early.
Last Sunday we had a very pleasant surprise. First our friends Catherine and Eric came to see us .. and over the following few hours their four children (the eldest being 21) and cousins trickled in .. and meanwhile we saw a most intriguing water performance, beside our boat. It started when I saw a man go by pushing a wheelchair with bits of equipment in it. He was joined by three others and they spent an hour or so unpacking and then assembling what was revealed to be a step-ladder, two surf boards and lots of red material.
Eventually they had draped the red material around the step-ladder and it was in the water, one of the men standing up inside it right, behind our boat. They ‘moored up’ and asked if we would mind keeping an eye on it as they’re off for lunch.. and we were apparently to see something later, at 4.00pm and 6.00pm.
And later we did see a bizarre performance dancing and singing around us, on the water.
Our performer was wearing heaps of makeup, a flowery swimming cap and sang in what seemed to be a professionally trained voice.
Even in the heavy showers this performer sat inside his red contraption (with umbrella up) between the acts .. two hours sitting inside the red cloak on a step-ladder in the water and two 10 minutes performances – another resilient person.
Yesterday we spent the day on the Metro and Buses .. the transport in this town and region is absolutely brilliant.
Every bus is fully accessible, all the trams along the Metro line are totally accessible with lifts at all of them (although it seemed from their smell the lifts are also used for the pissoir), they are very frequent (buses every 10 minutes in the week and the Metro line is every few minutes) and extremely easy to understand, therefore, to navigate around town without getting lost is easy!
The main goal was to visit LaM, Lille’s fabulously refurbished art museum (the leading one in Europe, apparently, presenting a vast amount of 20th and 21st century art, over 4,500 works).
We loved it .. and it was also 100% accessible (once they remembered where the key was to unlock the accessible door to the cafe!) – we would like to go back one day for more.
In the afternoon we went from the art museum on one side of Lille to a great town, Roubaix, on the other side – with the brilliant transport scheme (and it cost us only €3.60 each for the whole day).
We hoped to go there in Endellion as they had only recently (last year) reopened the canal from La Deule (where we are currently) through to Roubaix. Unfortunately we learned that it has again been closed so we had to settle for a tour without our boat. According to an article in the Dutch Barge Association magazine 50 million Euros were spent in reopening this stretch of canal – we hope by next summer they have it running again.
We’ve been so relaxed here, like we live here, we even enjoyed a drink at the ‘local’ which is a Tabac where you can buy the newspaper, bus passes, smokes (of course) and enjoy a drink.
Which was what Stewart did with this Belgium beer, Kwak! We had seen a group of young men drinking this one a few days before and were intrigued with the presentation (what a glass) and the potential flavour .. Stewart put it to the test. We thought there was a spirit shot in the bottom to which you add the beer.. but luckily that wasn’t the case, it was just a bit of water from the mandatory quick rinse before serving.
We also enjoyed a totally delicious, somewhat over-the-top, meal at Le Petite Auberge (the Little Inn, just across the bridge from our mooring) .. cheese only (and cold meats) as they serve fabulous Raclette and Fondue – it’s a big favourite in town, it was packed.
We had to take our China ramp for this (we call our newish/replaced medium sized ramp China after its origin) instead of the usual short one .. there were two steps into the restaurant .. but it was worth it.
We’re not sure when we will leave here.. we’re still chasing our preferred mooring for Paris so we’re not keen to leave until we have a better, or at least as good, place in mind.
Our thoughts are with family and friends .. sorry we can’t ring at present, we’re still in a no Skype environment.
Lesley and Stewart
PS: I was able to connect to Wi-Fi in a nearby field, arranged by the local Tourist Office. At Deule Insolite (www.deuleinsolite.fr), Stephane (one of the owners) welcomed me and explained I could use his Wi-Fi connection from the comfort of one of the intriguing gypsy caravans parked in his field. While I connected, every minute or so I would find the entire van shaking and wobbling and Belgian Jean (I was introduced to him on my way in) knocked on the door and popped his head in to explain he was trying to level the van which was listing on its wheels in the soft ground. He was checking to see if the doors had lined up square again!